The Bay State congressional delegation yesterday sent a letter urging departing Energy Secretary Steven Chu to approve massive loan guarantees for Cape Wind, but opponents blasted it as a political power play and warned of another costly, Solyndra-like clean energy blunder.
“It’s appalling that in the current fiscal situation, the Massachusetts delegation would knowingly support an expensive project that would put taxpayers at risk, as well as saddle Massachusetts ratepayers with billions of dollars in additional electricity costs – all to send jobs overseas,” said Audra Parker, president and CEO of Cape Wind foe The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. “The Department of Energy should not be risking taxpayer money on a project that’s heavily litigated and has strong potential for losing its customers. It’s another Solyndra waiting to happen.”
Solar-panel maker Solyndra landed $535 million in government loans before going bankrupt in 2011.
Cape Wind defended the delegation’s letter, noting that the loan guarantee program was set up almost eight years ago by a Republican White House with bipartisan support in Congress for cutting-edge, clean-energy projects.
“Cape Wind is a good example of that,” spokesman Mark Rodgers said, adding that the project would create 600 to 1,000 jobs in the construction phase and 50 operations jobs in Falmouth Harbor.
Rodgers wouldn’t provide details of Cape Wind’s financing, except to say it would be a combination of equity from investors and debt, including the Energy Department loan guarantee and loans from the Bank of Tokyo and possibly other commercial banks.
Rodgers wouldn’t disclose how much of a loan guarantee Cape Wind is seeking. But in 2011, the Energy Department denied it one for $1.97 billion under a program that expired that year, according to Parker.
“Now they’re once again applying under a different program,” she said, adding that there’s no deadline, but Cape Wind would need to begin construction by the end of this year to qualify for an additional subsidy that’s a 30 percent investment tax credit.
The $2.6 billion Cape Wind project would construct 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound that would be 440 feet tall at their highest point.
“Cape Wind promised if they sold their power, that would be enough to get financing,” said Bob Rio, senior vice president of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts. “They sold three-quarters of their power to National Grid and Nstar at the highest rates ever known in Massachusetts, and somehow, even this wasn’t enough to get financing? Exactly how much money should we give a project no one wants to invest in?”
A Bay State company that had expected to gain jobs from the project accused Cape Wind of handing it off to foreign suppliers.
“Cape Wind basically is going to be built by foreign suppliers,” said Stephen Lynch, executive vice president of Mass Tank in Middleboro. “If they had gone with us, it would have supported about 150 permanent jobs. We don’t think taxpayers should have to finance the project if it’s not going to create jobs in the U.S.”
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